Leerdammer is claiming a first by a major UK cheese brand by pledging to only use milk from cows that graze outside.
The Bel Group-owned brand has launched a ‘Free Grazing Promise’, which sees its 1,200 Dutch farmers commit to grazing their cows outside for at least six hours a day (as long as the weather isn’t too hot or cold) for a minimum of 120 days a year.
The commitment will be signposted on pack from this month and will be supported by a new ad on VOD platforms and radio from 23 July for a six-week period, in addition to digital, PR and sampling activity.
It comes as online research by the brand of 2,000 UK consumers revealed that 75% cited free grazing as being important to them, while two-thirds of shoppers claimed they would be more likely to purchase a dairy brand labelled as such.
Leerdammer is the first Bel brand to achieve 100% free grazing, but the dairy giant also plans to roll out the commitment across its entire portfolio by 2025. It co-signed an ‘Upstream Dairy Charter’ with the WWF earlier this year as part of a wider push to improve sustainability.
It follows an increase in popularity in free-range milk last year, which saw Asda list the Pasture Promise-accredited Free Range Dairy Farmers milk brand in February, while Arla rebranded its Organic Farmers Milk as Arla Organic Free Range Milk last July.
“We’re committed to making our cheese in the best, most natural way possible and have been doing so for some time,” said Bel group brand manager Gaëlle Vernet.
“Over 70% of UK consumers want dairy brands to be more transparent about their grazing policies, so by communicating our Free Grazing Promise clearly on pack and through our marketing activity we believe we can help consumers make better informed purchase decisions in relation to both taste and animal welfare,” she added.
“This is something we believe can add real value and differentiation within the highly commoditised cheese category.”
While Leerdammer’s commitment was a first by a major cheese brand, some smaller UK cheese producers already committed to free-range grazing standards by the Pasture Promise scheme (which stipulates at least 180 days a year of grazing), said founder Neil Darwent.
Despite noting the fact there was still no single free-range standard for dairy products, which could confuse shoppers, Darwent welcomed Leerdammer’s commitment.
“This all encourages consumers to ask more questions about provenance and how their milk and dairy products are produced,” he said.